July 31, 2006

the database superstate

Tony loves loves his people, he wants to know them like no ruler before him. He wants to know the thoughts, and what they have to say. He wants to know what they had for lunch. He wants to know their shoe sizes. He wants to know their retinal patterns, their DNA, their fingerprints, footprints, palm prints, wrist prints, every part of your body that has wrinkles on it stored on his central computer for later enjoyment.

It has been argued that perhaps we could use international treaties as a way of stopping the slide towards an authoritarian state. Despite Tony's attempt to use the EU as a democracy bypass for his ID Cards when it looked like they could face actual scrutiny in parliament. Well the EU should be discounted as a good way of attempting to maintain what freedom and privacy we have left. The EU itself now wants force everybody to submit their children to be added to a database of fingerprints, to be taken from children as young as six.

the EPP and democracy

The Serf has got his hands on a news letter from the EPP. Despite being killed off in the French and Dutch referenda, without even getting to the Danes, Irish, Swedes, or UK voters, the EPP believes that the EU constitution must now be ratified as the governments of a majority of EU states have now ratified this zombie treaty. Almost all of the ratifying governments without anything as undignified as asking the people they represent whether they want it ratified or not. That the EU has been implementing the Constitution without any legal basis has been continuing for some time, and that the EU would never be satisfied with a wrong answer in a referendum is also obvious from it's past behaviour. We really do have to leave now, things will only ever get worse.

less is more

While Sunny Hundal continues to be Comment Is Free's star columnist with a well argued piece against the censorship threatened by the Brick Lane brouhaha there is also another piece that would be worth reading. This one is about what happened after the fall of the soviet union, I would specifically direct you attention to this passage
The 90s decade that preceded Paton Walsh's tour of duty was one that saw, in the Slav states as well as elsewhere, a comprehensive hollowing out of communism and the command economy. I argued at the time that the fact that a large part of the upper and lower Soviet nomenklatura was engaged in various forms of plunder and scams assured a peaceful "transition" rather better than the succeeding IMF, World Bank and western-organised packages, which were the main media of conversation between Russia and the western states. And while it is true, as he says, that President Boris Yeltsin was probably more lethal to his administration sober and active than (as he so often was) drunk and deeply depressed
The chaotic structures that evolve themselves as people interact better than the packaged plans crafted in the lofty halls of IMF and World Bank? People do better with less government? There is a useful lesson there.

July 30, 2006

What EU party should you support?

MatGB of Not Little England has posted a link to a nice little tool to help decide which party you should vote for in the European Elections, rather like the questionnaires that came out around the time of the last UK general election. Unsurprisingly the best group that fits my preferences is the Europe of Democracies and Diversities (EDD) Group, which translates to voting for UKIP. Which I do anyway in the European elections.

July 28, 2006

Nazi Party of Tehran

now here is an editorial that would never be written for a European newspaper. It is about the war in Lebanon and demands that it is time for Iran to end the killing. Amazing, not blaming everything on the eeeevil joooooz for not accepting their proper station is to act as as Hezbollah target practice, and not releasing child killer Samir Kuntar (now there is an appropriate name). The writer even mentions who started this confrontation, Hezbollah
Hezbollah, aka the Party of God, touched off the current conflagration by kidnapping two Israeli soldiers and killing three others in a cross-border raid just over two weeks ago. That attack was only the latest in a long series of often fatal harassment actions conducted by the terrorist group since it filled the void left by Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.
Even more daring the author gets strips through the blindfold of self hate worn by so many european journalists to talk about what Hezbollah really is
When one strips away all the emotional and political baggage from the situation in the Middle East, the present conflict is at its heart a battle between a liberal democracy and a fascist dictatorship. It should be no trouble to figure out which side is in the right. Yet events in the Middle East are seen through one's individual political prejudices. In the West, too many on the Left are unable to put aside their reflexive anti-Americanism and romantic beliefs that Islamic radicals are simply freedom fighters to judge the situation fairly. ... if those who blame Israel were to put away their anti-American prejudices and forget for a moment the half-baked postmodern narrative of colonisers and liberators, they would see in Hezbollah something that could just as easily be called the Nazi Party of Tehran.
Read the whole thing, since you are unlikely to see anything like it in the european media.

Islamism, and it's respect for women

A piece on the Religion of Peace by the BBC and how an Islamist state treats it's victims citizens when they commit moral crimes. An unmarried 16 year old is executed for adultery.

Her first 'crimes against chastity' when she was aged just 13. This was for the heinous crime of "being alone in a car with a boy". Because of this
she spent a short time in prison and received 100 lashes.

When she returned to her home town, she told those close to her that lashes were not the only things she had to endure in prison. She described abuse by the moral police guards.
The wonderful Moral Police of Islam. The ones on Saudi Arabia where once so outraged at the prospect of uncovered girls leaving their burning school that they forced them back inside to die, but these Iranian ones don't seem to think anything the matter with their raping a 13 year old. In the UK this would be statutory rape, but under Sharia the age of consent under Sharia law is only 9 years, the age of Muhammad's youngest wife when he first had sex with her. Sharia law enforced in Iran and Saudi Arabia obviously being ever so respectful of women.

Subsequently to this she found herself in a relationship with a 51 year old Former revolutionary guard who raped her several times. And this is what killed her, not the rape itself but that she was willing to bring it up in a subsequent trial for 'moral crimes', for as we have seen in many places around the world under Sharia in cases of rape it is normally the victim that ends up getting punished.

July 26, 2006

the UN attack

While many people are going to instantly jump on the Israeli attack on a UN post as a sign of how Eeeeevil the Joooooz are perhaps a quick look at the UNIFIL press release on the issue (via LGF)
Another UN position of the Ghanaian battalion in the area of Marwahin in the western sector was also directly hit by one mortar round from the Hezbollah
side last night.
So it is not just the Eeeeevil Joooooz that have hit the UN. The only enquiry that Hezbollah are likely to hold is to why the mortars didn't go off, unlike the Israelis (even if Kofi Annan has already decided what the result should be). Nor is there going to be much mention of why the IDF where attacking in that area
It was also reported that Hezbollah fired from the vicinity of four UN positions at Alma ash Shab, Tibnin, Brashit, and At Tiri.
, or near the four other UN posts that Hezbollah have been hiding behind. Hezbollah playing their favourite game of trying to get their opponents to hit innocents by accident, a tactic which is against the geneva conventions.

Neil Harding: The Israeli invasion.

Neil Harding makes an interesting point about why so much of what calls itself the 'left' instantly jumped to the side of the fascist scum and war criminals that started the confrontation in Lebanon, Hezbollah.
The 'Left' by instinct are on the side of the underdog and the oppressed and who could argue that the Palestinians and Israel's neighbours are not the underdogs in the face of Israel's massive US financed military muscle?
There could certainly be something to this idea for many, though there are some that will support anything that they see as anti-american (such as French politicians and the EU) since they are trying to re-lose the cold war.

What about the other side, those (like me) that instinctively side with Israel.

Well partly because Israel has attacked be continuously by Hezbollah's indiscriminate missile attacks against civilian targets with no military value, and does have the right to defend itself. But also because Israel is by far the most free country in the entire region. Israel is the only place in that area where, were it not for the constant fear of terrorist attacks by it's Islamist enemies, it's citizens would free to live almost exactly as they chose. This is not something that can be said about the state that the Islamist's would like to create after they drove the Jews into the sea.

So it could be that the rather obvious split over Israel is that rather old split between those that favour equality of outcome, and so side with the underdog, and those that favour equality of opportunity, and so favour the only free society in the region.

July 24, 2006

Hezbollah is responsible

One of the commenters at Harry's Place has created a summary of the situation in international law regarding the current war between Israel and Hezbollah in this thread, since you cannot link to an individual comment I'm going to post it in full.
I'm fairly certain there is something in the Geneva Conventions about it being valid to kill civilians, when the enemy is hiding amongst them. I'm researching it further to find the exact wording. - Monica

The exact wording is that it isn't. -dsquared

Both Protocol I and Article 28 of the Geneva Convention (IV) make clear that "the deliberate intermingling of civilians and combatants, designed to create a situation in which any attack against combatants would necessarily entail an excessive number of casualties is a flagrant breach of the Law of International Armed Conflict." In short, Hezbollah is in violation of the laws of war when it places missiles and rockets in villages and homes in order to shield them from Israeli attack.
Article 51(7) of Protocol I states: "The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations."  And the Geneva Convention (IV) holds that "The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points of areas immune from military operations."  (Geneva Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, 1949, Laws of Armed Conflicts, 495, 511.)  Moreover, the Rome Statute is clear that "utilizing the presence of civilians or other protected persons to render certain points, areas or military forces immune from military operations is recognized as a war crime by Article 8 (2) (b) (xxiii)".

At the same time, the principle of proportionality applies even in such cases when a belligerent has committed the war crime of using a civilian objective to shield its military forces or weapons from attack. However, even if that is the case, the appraisal whether civilian casualties are excessive in relation to the military advantage anticipated must make allowances for the fact that -- if an attempt is made to shield military objectives with civilians -- civilian casualties will be higher than usual. Legal scholar L. Doswald-Beck wrote the following regarding Israel's original Lebanon War in the Journal of Peace Research: "The Israeli bombardment of Beirut in June and July of 1982 resulted in high civilian casualties, but not necessarily excessively so given the fact that the military targets were placed amongst the civilian population." 

The above considerations pertain to the norms deriving from treaty law (e.g., the Geneva Conventions). But there is another set of standards which are relevant to the question of proportionality which derive from another source of international law, known as customary international law. Together with treaties, customary law is one of the main sources of international humanitarian law (IHL), or the laws of war. Customary international law is certainly more rigorous than the [Geneva] Protocol on this point.  It has traditionally been perceived that, should civilian casualties ensue from an attempt to shield combatants or a military objective, the ultimate responsibility lies with the belligerent [party] placing innocent civilians at risk.  A belligerent...is not vested by the laws of international armed conflict with the power to block an otherwise legitimate attack against combatants (or military objectives) by deliberately placing civilians in harm's way."  In short, Hezbollah is legally (and morally) responsible for any Lebanese civilian casualties which result from Israeli bombardment of villages, homes or urban areas containing missiles, rockets or armed Hezbollah guerrilla forces—so long as Israel is aiming at these military targets, as it has.

An obvious breach of the principle of proportionality would be the destruction of a whole village--with hundreds of civilian casualties--in order to eliminate a single enemy sniper.  In contrast, if -- instead of a single enemy sniper -- an artillery battery would operate from within the village, such destruction may be warranted" under the laws of war.

Bridges and Civilian Casualties

Israel has bombed bridges in parts of Lebanon in order to prevent the movement of missiles into firing range of Israeli population centers, to obstruct the re-armament of Hezbollah, and to prevent Hezbollah from spiriting its captured soldiers to the Iranian Embassy, to Syria or Iran. Under the international law of armed conflict, "most bridges qualify as military objectives by purpose, use or above all, location...As long as they are apt to have a perceptible role in the transport of military reinforcements and supplies, their destruction is almost self-explanatory as a measure playing havoc with enemy logistics." Moreover, "given the significant military advantage that can generally be gained from the destruction of a strategically located bridge, relatively high civilian casualties would ordinarily be deemed reasonable collateral damage." 
Advance Warning Before Attacking Military Targets in Areas Affecting Civilians

Article 57(2) of Protocol I of the Geneva Convention, like the Hague Convention of 1907, "prescribes that effective advance warning must be given of attacks affecting the civilian population, 'unless circumstances do not permit'...Warnings are designed 'to allow, as far as possible, civilians to leave a locality before it is attacked.'" Israel has repeatedly given advance warning to civilians in areas containing military objectives it plans to target:  in south Beirut, before it attacked the Hezbollah stronghold, it gave at least 48 hours advance warning via airdropped leaflets, and it did the same with civilians in southern Lebanon, an area from which Hezbollah has been indiscriminately launching rockets at Israeli civilians within Israel, and where Hezbollah guerrillas have built fortifications and store arms.  

The Assessment of Proportionality 

Several conclusions follow from this review of the international law of armed conflict. First, the international laws of war permit considerable civilian casualties and harm to civilians of various kinds within the ambit of lawful combat, so long as a combatant fulfills its conditions.  Second, the principle of proportionality prohibits an attack on a legitimate military target only if the collateral civilian casualties would be disproportionate in relation to the specific military gain anticipated from the attack.  An attack against a legitimate military target is a war crime if the incidental loss of civilian life is "excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated."  (Article 51 (5) (b) of Protocol I; Article 8 (2) (b) (iv) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court). Even extensive civilian casualties may be acceptable, if they are not excessive in light of the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated." The Protocol refers to expected injury to civilians and to anticipated military advantage....what ultimately counts in appraising whether an attack which engenders incidental loss of civilian life or damage to civilian objects is 'excessive,' is not the actual outcome of the attack but the initial expectation and anticipation."

Anticipated vs. Actual Outcome of Military Actions and Proportionality

In making judgments as to the proportionality of an attack, if an extensive air campaign is undertaken, it would be mistaken to focus on the outcome of an isolated sortie. It has been rightly emphasized that, pursuant to Article 8 (2) (b)(iv) of the Rome Statute, assessment of what is excessive is to be based on 'overall' military advantage anticipated. By introducing the word 'overall', the Statute 'somewhat broadens the scope of military advantages which may be taken into account': it permits looking at the larger operational picture and not merely at the particular point under attack. It seems clear that the anticipated military and strategic gains, which include better protecting from rocket and missile attack more than 2 million Israelis--and with Tel Aviv and central Israel, virtually the country's entire population of 7 million--must be factored into any judgments about the proportionality of Israel's operations against Hezbollah. 

Finally, from all this it follows that it is a categorical mistake to simply count the number of civilian Lebanese casualties, and then ask--is this too many in relation to whether Israel can "destroy Hezbollah", as the appropriate way for evaluating the proportionality of Israel's military actions in Lebanon.   It is a mistake for at least two reasons:  first, because it is arbitrary and unreasonable to treat "the destruction of Hezbollah," and Israel's inability to attain this objective, as the sole military advantage which should enter into the calculus; and second, because the absolute number of civilian casualties resulting from Israel's actions, while not irrelevant to that calculus, is not the primary determinant of proportionality in international law. This is so because the moral and legal responsibility for many of those casualties under international law falls squarely on Hezbollah. Many more of those civilian casualties are also permitted as proportionate under the laws of war even though they sometimes represent a considerable number, in absolute terms.

Posted by: left, but not antizionist at July 24, 2006 06:20 PM
Israel attempts to target militants, Hezbollah attempts to target civilians. Israel attempts to warn civilians to get out of an area that it is about to attack, Hezbollah gives no warning about its' indiscriminate attacks. Israel clearly shows who is in it's military and who isn't, Hezbollah deliberately hides amongst civilians to use them as human shields. Israel wants to protect it's borders and has always accepted that there be a Palestinian state, Hezbollah and and the other Islamists (such as like Hamas or Iran, plus other non-Islamist funders such as Syria) have never accepted Israel's right to exist. Israel is the only true democracy in the region and the only country that has any respect for it's citizens, the goal of Hezbollah and the Islamists (after they have destroyed Israel and driven the Jews into the sea) is the creation of an Islamic State which, like all other Islamic States, will not even give the slightest pretense at accepting diversity or equality. Israel is reacting to a threat, but Hezbollah went out of their way to provoke them.

If Israel's response is stronger that might be wise perhaps this is because a large number of its citizens remember the results when another fascist group that openly stated it wanted to exterminate them. Hezbollah, the de facto government of southern lebanon, knew any response would be harsh before they picked a fight with Israel. Just as did Hamas, the actual government of Palestine in Gaza. Hezbollah and Hamas have then used every trick to make sure that the will be the maximum number of civilian casualties, so both legally and morally they are responsible for them. A ceasefire would be good, but a ceasefire requires that both sides cease firing. Something that Hamas has explicitly said that it will never do
"The resistance groups will not accept a political end to this," [Palestinian ambassador] Zavavi said. "They will not put down their weapons."
and there is no reason to think that Hezbollah would be any less intransigeant.

July 23, 2006

lets leave the EU now

There is something is software development called the 'Death March', if that sounds ominous and melodramatic it is because it is ominous. A Death March is a type of project that is doomed to failure, but nobody is willing to cancel. Each time the question of canceling it comes up it seems that after all the money that has been spent on it, usually many millions, it would be a waste to give up and maybe they can make up the lost ground in the next phase, maybe they can somehow pull it right with a bit more effort. But you never can the foundations are wrong or there is some deep underling cause that means that it will never ever go right.

The UK's relationship with the EU is rather like this. We have wasted billions on it, and will continue to waste billions until eventually we part company with it one way or another. Yet there is always the lure that maybe, just maybe it could be reformed. But this will only happen if we stay in. So we do, and yet more billions disappear. In reality the EU can't be reformed, it is exactly what it was always supposed to be. The only way to reform the EU would involve it's complete dissolution and reconstruction from the ground up, to use that wonderful phrase trying to reform the EU is like trying to get a cat to bark. We should leave the EU as soon as possible, there is no better time than now since it is only ever going to get worse.

July 22, 2006

the problem with religion

An interesting article in The Guardian about the problems with religion. Unfortunately the author tries to have it both ways (something probably banned in Leviticus). He understands the frankly genocidal rhetoric that they contain is dangerous, but is still unwilling to give up his attachment to his invisible friend
It is time to acknowledge that the ancient books that various religions regard as their source texts are the product of human societies seeking to define and establish themselves in a barbaric and troubled world. As such, they often contain violent, xenophobic statements
Which they do. Especially Islam and Judaism being formed as religions of conquest, but Judaism no longer acting on them so much having been persecuted minority for the last two and a haft thousand years. Christianity has less of these traits built in having begun with it's followers a persecuted minority, but it still has them and not just the ones it inherited from Judaism's conquering past. This is all true, the next be presents a problem:
often presented as being the divine will.
But if the teachings of a religion is not presented as the divine will of the god of said religion what exactly is there left? Some undefined supernatural entity that you have no idea how to worship, or even if you should, and a set of unrelated cultural practices. It is the connection between the historical (and often genocidal) rhetoric and supposed god that makes most of the worlds religions be religions (the exception being peaceful, atheist, Buddhism).

Take the most violent of the Abrahamic religions, Islam. Islam's most fundamental tenet is that there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Unplug what the dessert warrior had to say as being the word of Allah from Islam and you might get something far less violent, it is just that it would not be Islam.


I had not particually wanted to comment on Lebanon but here goes.

After it was created by the UN in 1947 it was the Jews that accepted the two state solution. The arab countries around Israel have never accepted that it has the right to exist, and many still don't. After the partition in 1947 the arabs, not accepting the two state solution, started attacking the Jews this grew into the War of Independence in 1948. Israel was attacked by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq but it somehow managed to survive. This is when the so called 'refugees' left Israel, with an equal number of Jews being forced from the surrounding countries into Israel. Of course you never hear about these refugees as they have assimilated into Israel rather than being kept permanently in refugee status as a stick to beat their smaller neighbour.

During the 1950's Israel got involved in the Suez crisis with Britain and France to stop the nationalisation of the Suez canal, and then had to fight the 6 Days War after Syria, Jordan, and Egypt started hinting that they where to attack and Egypt closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli vessels, a blockade being a recognised act of war (the US was very careful not to call it's blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missiles crisis a blockade so as to not automatically end up in World War 3).

Then there was the Yom Kippur War of 1973 when Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack against Israel, but where again beaten back.

Then in the 1980's after it was attacked by terrorists operating from the political vacuum caused by the Lebanese civil war Israel moved in to defend itself, just like what is happening today. Once again the arabs where totally outclassed.

Despite the myth of victimhood fostered by the arabs it has always been the radical groups amongst them that start things in an attempt to wipe Israel from the pages of history to use the President of Iran's (one of the main sponsors of hizbullah, and currently in need of something to take the spotlight off their nuclear ambitions) colourful phrase. Starting a fight and then getting the shit kicked out of you does not make you a victim. It makes you a loser.

EU's soft power

It is not just British industry that is being crippled by the EU, it's tentacles spread beyond Europe and all the way to Africa. This is the EU's 'soft power', unable do anything constructive, like dissuading Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons, but perfectly capable of harming the least well off.

Inequality will always be here, so might as well use it

Stumbling and Mumbling looks at inequality, following Polly's entirely predictable, and predicted, article on the matter. He points out that even if somehow it where possible to make sure that everybody where equally poor that would still not solve the matter. Money is in itself not much, it is an exchange medium, but we also use it as a signifier of something else status.
If people in power - like bosses - can't convert that power into money, they'll convert it into something else, like status. Remember the 1970s? It's no coincidence that high taxes were accompanied by absurd distinctions in status, like "executive toilets". Much the same was true of the old Soviet Union, as Trotsky pointed out.
Taxes, than, aren't the solution.
The real solution then would be to try and do something about the signified, status, rather than the signifier, money. And here you run into a problem, you can't.

There is a glorious diversity of human talent out there, but the fact that everybody is different means that everybody will have different aptitudes and attitudes to different things. This can be seen everywhere. Even in the UK with a state schooling system designed so that everybody ends up equally uneducated some people will still leave it better at whatever their chosen interest than others. Some people are better at some things than other people, either because of being physiologically better at it, or because they are willing to slog their guts out to become better at it. It is only natural that the better quality whatever produced by the people willing to dedicate themselves it's production will have a higher status than a lower quality one, because it is better. The status of the whatever will naturally end up reflected onto whomever it is that produces it.

So if you cannot stop people being different how about stopping people caring? Try to educate out the instinct for higher status? Again, because you can't. Social hierarchy is hardwired into humans, as it is with all other primates. You can also see the problems associated with being lower in the social hierarchy in all primates. You are about as likely to be able to educate out people's instinct to envy as their instinct to love.

So if we are never going to be rid of social hierarchy and status then we might as well try to use it in a productive manner to try and get enough benefit out of it that this out weight the deficits in terms of human happiness. Allow people to compete, because they will anyway, and allow them to reap the rewards of success, because they will anyway in one way or another. Let people goad each other into pushing themselves to excel and so more up or down the social hierarchy on their merits. It is better this than try to restrict competition and so doom some groups of people to the underclass, no matter their abilities as individuals.

July 21, 2006

UK fishing quotas to be cut by EU again

I could easily have missed this latest EU induced problem, where it not for This Sceptered Isle. Often you will hear Pro-EU people claim that should we leave it would damage industry. What they fail to mention is that by staying we are destroying industries, such as the fishing industry. Once again the failure of the CFP to fulfill it's purpose of conserving fish stocks has lead to yet another cut to the UK fishing quota. So once again the EU is going to push more fishermen into bankruptcy, and still not do anything about conserving fish stocks.

Warship refuses Omar Bakri Mohammed

Remember Omar Bakri Mohammed? The Islamist joint Lebanese/Syrian citizen that was up to last year living in the UK on massive benefits while repeatedly calling for the destruction of the country that he was living in and the death of the people that where paying for him. The guy that said that terrorists targeting children was good?

Well he has been having to live in Lebanon for the last year after going there on holiday and being refused the right to return to the UK. You would expect that given the recent hostilities there he would be first in line to sign up to give his aid to the Islamist cause, perhaps (hopefully) as one of the suicide bombers that he so often praised while in the UK. Well not exactly. What he actually tried to do was get onto the first Royal Navy ship that he could flee Lebonon back to the country that he had spent most of the last 20 years criticising for it's decadence and lack of Islamic values. The Navy had the good sense to refuse him access.

July 20, 2006

New Labour fascism ... part far to many to count

David Miliband, is laying out the idea of the government rationing the amount of carbon that everybody can emit. Environmentalism is the excuse but don't we already have the best way know of getting the CO2 emitting activities to where they are really of most use? The market, plus a carbon tax (fuel duty) to cover the externalities.

You could argue that fuel duty does not cover the externalities of producing carbon. And you would be wrong.

There are many companies that offer Carbon offsetting services, and the average price is roughly $16.13 per metric ton of C02, or £8.81 per metric ton at the time of writing, according to Google. Car fuel duty is 47.1 pence per litre, or £471 per cubic meter of petrol. One cubic meter of petrol is 737.22kg. Assuming the molecular masses the oils that make up petrol are on average that of pure Octane (since it is a mix of all the oils, but mainly the alkanes, with between 5 and 12 carbons) this will burn to roughly 2447kg of CO2. So one Cubic meter of petrol will cost about £39.50 to offset on the open market. That is 3.95p per litre. So yes Fuel Duty covers the externalities of producing CO2, in fact you are paying over ten times the actual cost of the externalities. But rampant inefficiency has got to be expected with anything that the government gets it's claws into.

They want to replace the best system that we know how to build, that more than covers the externalities that it is supposed to, with one that is demonstrably worse. Wonderful. This cannot be about the environment, or they would not be proposing changing to a worse system for the environment than we have at present. So, like Perry de Havilland, I must conclude that yet again this is are fascist government trying to gain more control over what is none of it's business.


Via the Devil's Kitchen here is The Register's take on this little disaster in the making.

EU Fraud

It has been known for some time that VAT is a fraud magnet. It is hopelessly overcomplicated, but we have to have it because of the EU. So when a proposal comes along to try and simplify it and make it less fraud prone you would expect that it would be welcomed. Not a bit of it.

Austria had proposed reforming VAT so that it would basically be transformed into a form of Sales Tax. This would make the most common and damaging from of VAT fraud impossible. But the EU Commission, unelected, unaccountable, and not exactly squeaky clean historically about fraud and graft themselves, have the ultimate say over this tax. And they say no. It is almost as if they like that the everything the EU touches turns into a mechanism for large scale fraud

Why we shouldn't have the death penalty

The a simple reason that we should not have a death penalty for anything, people make mistakes. Even when the evidence is extremely strong it can still on occasion be wrong, like in this case of rape from the USA where new evidence proved the accused innocent because of new evidence despite very good evidence in the original trial. Should that happen there is no possibility of correcting the mistake if the person is dead. Luckily in most developed countries that have kept the death penalty it's use is very low, and not used for rape at all (which is why the guy in question was still alive). In some less developed countries they use the death penalty a lot more, and even in the case of rape. On the victim.

July 16, 2006

murder rates

For Neil, I have not been able to find homicide statistics going all the way back to deep into Victorian times, but I have been able to find homicide statistics for the last century in this PDF from the House of Commons research department. These where already corrected for population growth being measured per million population in England and Wales. I've graphed them to show up any trends.

I expected there to be quite a bit of noise, homicide being a rare crime, and was surprised that there is a very striking set of trends. Before the Second World War the homicide rate was slowly falling, but afterwards it started to rise dramatically. So something dramatic must have changed to society at this point to cause this change in criminality, and the only thing that I can see could to affect the whole of society in such as large way was the introduction of the Welfare State.

July 13, 2006

The welfare state causes crime

Over at the Devil's place the crime statistics that I found have caused an awful stir with people trying desperately to show that the massive increase in crime since the start of the Welfare State cannot possibly be anything to do with the Welfare State. There are many possible contributory factors, but most of the reasons givern can easily be ruled out as the primary reason.

Here are the possible other reasons:

Too much immigration - The beginnings of mass immigration to start at the same time as the graph begins it's climb upwards. However calling it 'mass' immigration is really a bit of a misnomer as the demographics of the population have only changed by 10%, not enough to affect such a massive change in criminality. That would be even if most of the immigrants had criminal intentions when practically all of them did not, preferring to get jobs and contribute to society.

The wrong sort of immigration - see above.

60's permissiveness - The swinging 60's where towards the end of that decade with the summer of love being in 1969. The trend starts before this. Both may share a cause, or the 60's could even have exacerbated the underlying problem, but the 60's cannot have caused the rise in criminality.

Female emancipation - This can be traced back to the mid 19th century, with major mile stones being the large number of extra women that went to work in factories during World War 1 (they have always been many women factory workers) leading to the the start of women's suffrage just after and then full electoral equality in 1928. With so many major events before the beginning of the Welfare State then you would expect that to have an effect on the crime graph before the beginning of hte Welfare State. Except the graph is low and flat at this point, so again that cannot be a primary cause.

Family breakdown & Single parent families - Possibly, but since family breakdown and single parents where caused by the perverse incentives of the Welfare State the root cause would still be the Welfare State acting through this as an intermediary.

Lack of discipline for children - Caused in part by family break down and single parent families, when a single mother is forced to do everything then something has to give. No matter how much better women are than men at juggling responsibilities they are still only human and still only have so much time. Family break up being caused by the perverse incentives of the welfare state.

Ineffective policing - Very possibly but there is not much data on this available on effectiveness. What we do know is the the rise in the number of police has been much slower than the rise in the number of criminals with there being 17 crimes per police officer in 1971 rising to 44 crimes per police officer in 2000. More police are known to cut crime, so why are aren't there more police? Perhaps because the money was needed to pay for something else.

Reduction in prison sentences - Maybe, maybe not. I have read somewhere that the increase in the use of probation and community sentences only really took off in the 1970's as a way of saving money, the prison system being unable to cope with the ever increasing numbers sent there. But I cannot source it at the moment.

Unemployment - If this was the primary cause then you would expect spikes during the great depression and 1970's. If you look carefully there are slight rises at these points, but they are dwarfed by the general trend. So it cannot be the primary cause.

Personal affluence - This has been generally growing for the entire century with the exception of the world wars and great depression. So you would expect some kind of upward trend in the crime graph other than at these points as well, when it is actually flat.

Thatcherism - Thatcherism started in the late 1970's early 1980's. The major upward trend starts in the 1950's, unless Margaret was in secret possession of a time machine we can safely rule this one out.

Globalism - Globalism was much further progressed in the 19th century than for most of the twentieth. Had this been a prinicpal cause then you would expect the graph to be high at the beginning, drop to a low point around the great depression when most countries tried to protect themselves with 'beggar they neighbour' policies then go back up. The graph is nothing like this.

Population growth - the graph is per capita therefore corrected for the direct effects of population growth in producing more criminals even if the general level of criminality stayed the same. Also the population has been growing continuously so there should have been a similar rise before the introduction of the welfare state as after it, when there isn't.

Better reporting - Compare the trends, as they are different measures and so cannot be compared exactly, of the British Crime Survey that attempts to estimate actual crime with the graph of criminality and you will find that they are very similar. Other have a peak in 1995 and both then reduce to the levels of the early 1980's. From this we can see that actual crime does seem to track reported crime for the available data. It is therefore probably that actual crime also followed the same trend of the reported crime graph before that. So it was not simply that more crime is being reported, while the levels of crime committed remain constant.

Lack of welfare - when there is no welfare state there is low and stead levels of crime. When there is a welfare state there are high and increasing levels of crime. The lack of a welfare state can easily be ruled out as a primary cause.

This leaves only the Welfare State as the thing pervasive enough and at the correct time to be the primary cause of the sudden rise in levels of criminality after the second world war compared to the low and fairly static levels before. It is probably not the sole reason, but it is the major one.

ID Cards gone

Finally some good news, ID Cards are to be scrapped. But this is not the end of the database state and new labours attempt to get everybody on punch cards to be fed throught the Hollerith Machines.

Islamists might have their own agenda

Something that you do not see everyday on Comment is Free, an article pointing out that Islamists might have their own agenda. He reached this radical departure for a person writing for the guardian through using a technique new to the pages of that august institution. He took the Islamists as actually meaning what they say, and not imposing a narrative of imperialist opression on top of them. Shocking.
His [Qutb's] extraordinary project, which is still emerging, was to take apart the entire political and philosophical structure of modernity and return Islam to its unpolluted origins. For him, that was a state of divine oneness, the complete unity of God and humanity. Separation of the sacred and the secular, state and religion, science and theology, mind and spirit - these were the hallmarks of modernity, which had captured the west. But Islam could not abide such divisions. In Islam, he believed, divinity could not be diminished without being destroyed. Islam was total and uncompromising.
A system that forces people to live in one certain way, a system that is total and uncompromising, totalitarian. And like all totalitarian systems Islam is based around placing the supposed needs of the collective far above the individuals that it contains.
one of the most powerful of such ideologies has been, in very different forms, an appeal to oneness: oneness of nation and ethnos (Nazism); one-ness of class and party (communism) and oneness of faith, state and thought (Islamism).


Thanks to NHS rationing a woman is left dieing in agony because of a shortage of diamorphine. Or to give it its trade name, Heroin. Which which the free market can provide in any amount you want in most towns and cities.

July 12, 2006

Lord Levy arrested

Lord Levy has been arrested in connection with the loans for peerages scandal. The police must have enough evidence that they think that they can make a case against him and since he was personally appointed by blair this is going to get very awkward for the Prime Minister should he be found to have done it, however at this point nothing has been proved so he should still have the presumption of innocence even if he is part of a government that would remove it from everybody else.

Tax credits

The full official extent of the problems with the tax credits system is now in the public domain. £1.17bn has been paid in error, twice earlier estimates. The tax credits programme only deals with about £14 billion so when the numbers like these start popping up you really have to question it's design:
According to the National Audit Office report, £1.17bn was given to claimants in payments to which they were not entitled, £70m through fraud and £1.1b through error. Mistakes also resulted in the underpayment of £230m to claimants.
That largest number, the overpayments, the revenue will attempt to claim back later. This means that families that cannot afford it suddenly get landed with large bills, unsurprisingly many cannot pay
Revenue and Customs wrote off £397m of the £1.8bn it overpaid in 2004-5, and has designated another £409m as "doubtful debts". The figures for 2005-6 are expected to be similar.

Abolition of parliament bill gets even worse

Via Ian Dale I find that the Abolition of Parliament Bill is still trundling along. Shout Out Liverpool has the details. The government has tabled some ammendments to it, apparently they did not think that getting rid of democracy was enough for them. The second and third are simply emphasising what is already in this terrible bill, that a government minister can make up the law on a whim as they go along with no debate or need to put it before parliament. But the first ammendment is different. They also now want to be able to remove government, and it's servants, from the requirements of the rule of law entirely.
The first amendment is the power to remove or reduce burdens.

"A Minister of the Crown may by order under this section make any provision which he considers would serve the purpose [of] removing or reducing any burden resulting directly or indirectly for any person from any legislation . . . [where] burden means a sanction, criminal or otherwise, for doing or not doing anything in the course of any activity".

The two key points here are "any legislation" and "any activity".
If this ammendment goes into an act then it will allow any minister authorise anybody to do anything that they like. Want an opt out from the Acts against selling peerages? Have a little mortgage difficulty? Just deliberately shot an innocent man in the head? Pull a few political strings and all your problems can simply go away.

July 11, 2006

Corruption in the EU

The verdict is in. The ECJ has ruled that her corruption and fraud, which when revealed brought down the Santre commission does deserve a punishment. The punishment proposed being that they do absolutely nothing. Nada. Nichts. Niente. Rein.

The EU's prefered punishment for corruption at the highest level is to do absolutely bugger all.

However anybody with the gall to try and point out that there is corruption and fraud in the EU then it will come down on you with everything that it has. Or attempt to put in place systems that will stop fraud it will attempt to stop you. Even if it suspects that you might be about to bring forward (yet more) examples of fraud in the EU it will smear you and declare you insane.

BBC bias

Want to know why the BBC has a Europhile bias? Follow the money, and you get to it having taken millions of pounds of loans from an institution set up to finance capital investment furthering European integration by promoting EU policies.

train bombings in India

20 people have been killed in at least seven blasts on trains in the Indian financial capital Mumbai. It the people responcible are not yet known. But my bet is that they will be Islamists and claim that they did it because of Kashmir, and don't expect the BBC to mention the I word.

Satire dead, official

An object lesson to all bloggers, remember that The Onion is satire.


Just read the follow up post, personally I prefer the original. It is just so serious. <public service broadcast> If anyone out there however is thinking about an abortion and worried about it you could try CARE Confidential </public service broadcast>


She still doesn't get it, but the comedy quality seems to have gone down hill since the first one.

Cameron policy spotted in the wild

It appears that Polly might have stumbled across that rarest of flowers, a David Cameron Policy. Blind to anything but central government she cannot see it, but the tender shoots are just about visible pushing up through cracks the intellectual desert that has been Cameron's leadership so far. She is trying to critise him over his "hug a hoodie" speach when the discovery is made
But Cameron's Love Actually is free. Charities do it, the state doesn't - and never mind the money.
That would appear to be the point. She earlier quotes Ian Duncan Smith who outlines explicitly what this is all about, even if Polly willfully ignores it, Duncan Smith says:
"when it comes to these difficult issues we're obsessed with measuring the quantity of inputs. How much money. How many more staff. Whether targets are met ... Our record is lousy; yours is great - so you should be in charge."
Whenever the state does something it does it very very badly. But in order to remain free from the dead hand of central government they cannot simply have central government money hosed at them, if that happened they would become beholden to their financial masters in whitehall and soon be producing just as poor results as any other part of government. Polly and other lovers of big governemnt might think that Cameron has any policies in the words of Home Office minister Tony McNulty that Polly quotes
"wash and go" policies. Cameron leaves not a drop of policy clinging to him as he dips in and out of the milk of human kindness
But this is because he refuses to make big claims about directing the power of central government at things, but that is the policy. Avoid government action where possible, because it does not work. Curtail state activity in favour of allowing the small local groups that actually do work to get on and get things done.
Hugging charities and emoting over hoodies is no substitute for a policy, and the "what works" evidence is in front of his nose.
Polly you are seeing the birth of a policy right there, getting government to do less in because of the "what works" evidence in front of his nose. He is going with what works, private charity, rather than what doesn't, government action.

The Welfare State causes crime

Raw Carrot has an extensive review of "A Land Fit For Criminals". He includes some scans of various diagrams in the book including this one of crime levels:

Notice anything about this diagram? How it seems to be in two distinct phases? The first phase the number of crimes per 100,000 population remains fairly static, the second phase it climbs steadily. The crossover point being just after the end of World War 2. Obviously something dramatic happened then that changed the basic make up of society, leading to steadily greater levels of criminality, the biggest social change at that time being the introduction of the Welfare State.

July 10, 2006

be afraid (and keep voting Labour)

According to Chicken Yoghurt Britain is going to get it's own set of useless colour coded terror warnings so that the government can easily tweak them up and down to maintain the levels of fear required so that the New Labour project of the systematic destruction of civil liberties can continue with less of those nasty distractions like peoples consciences. The US has been using this system for a while so lets have a look at what security expert Bruce Schneier has to say about that one:
The first is such a common impulse of bureaucratic self-protection that it has achieved a popular acronym in government circles: CYA. If the worst happens and another attack occurs, the American public isn't going to be as sympathetic to the current administration as it was last time. ...

The second purpose is even more self-serving: Terror threat warnings are a publicity tool. They're a method of keeping terrorism in people's minds.
So this is probably a way that the government can keep up a facade that it was actually doing something in order to deflect some blame when the next Islamic terror attack happens, while maintaining the maximum amount of fear to get their draconian legislation though. That would sound extraordinarily cynical, where we not being governed by New Labour. Mr Schneier continues
It's instructive to look at the European countries that have been dealing with terrorism for decades, like the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Italy, and Spain. None of these has a color-coded terror-alert system. None calls a press conference on the strength of "chatter." Even Israel, which has seen more terrorism than any other nation in the world, issues terror alerts only when there is a specific imminent attack and they need people to be vigilant. And these alerts include specific times and places, with details people can use immediately. They're not dissimilar from hurricane warnings.
And now the government wants to change from the low key system that is useful and actually works to one that is far more flashy and media friendly, but will be of considerably less use than what went before. How very New Labour.

there is no reason not to leave the EU

Ruth Lea has a good article in the Telegraph on why we don't need to be in the EU. For me two point stood out, this on the protectionist nature of the EU:
Mr Sanderson said that trade negotiations conducted through the EU were "glacial" compared with the bilateral deal-making favoured by, for example, the US, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

He is, of course, right about the EU's tardiness, except when protectionist interests raise their heads above the parapet. Then quotas are slapped on textile imports from China ("bra wars") and tariffs slapped on Chinese and Vietnamese shoe imports ("shoe wars") quicker than you can say "Peter Mandelson".
The reason for which is simple, just follow the money. As a customs union the EU creams off a percentage off all the tarriffs that it imposes. More tarriffs, more money. Less tarriffs, less money. You can obviously see what the Eurocrats are going prefer, since there has to be money available in the EU coffers before they can embezel it.

The conclusion also seemed important as it does away with one of the major pro-EU myths
Finally, should we worry about losing influence over the EU's regulations? Not really - for two reasons.

First, British current influence is feeble and will remain feeble. We simply don't fit in.

Second, EU red tape hits 100pc of the economy, while only 13pc is traded with the EU. It's time to consider the silent 87pc.
Everything the EU does turns to crap, it should not exist. While it does exist the best that we can do is leave and show that a better way is possible to try and speed up it's eventual collapse.

Government vs. charity

Charity is back in fashion. After fifty years of waiting for the government to deliver results, and its attempt at a cure often proving worse than the disease, private individuals are using private charity to get help to where it is needed most. And doing it far better than any government could ever do. This is unless government can find a way to stop them from showing up it's waste and inefficiency, such as using EU waste directives to stop the gift of vital medicines that will save hundreds of lives in the poorest parts of the world.

Gallileo, or the EU finds a high tech way of screwing the Europeans

The EU has long wanted to reduce its reliance for funding on it's member states, there won't always be the likes of Blair around to give away money to it for no return. It already has several funding streams such as:
A proportion of VAT returns. Hence why this fraud magnet of a tax can never be removed while we are in the EU or VAT levels on anything that attracts it allowed to go below 5%.
A proportion of the money raised by the tarrifs that it controls as a Customs Union. Hence why it will never stop being protectionist and allow free trading with the rest of the world. This block on free trade by rich countries being one of the main reasons why poor countries are poor (and we aren't richer than we could be).

Somebody somewhere in the EU eurocracy had a clever idea for a new money spinner. The EU would create a rival to GPS, which would allow the politicians to show their anti-American credentials, funnel money from all the other EU countries into France for launching the satelites, and allow the EU to get some cash by charging the people manufacturing receivers for access to the service. Manufacturing the receivers would also provide a useful boast to European hi-tech industry. The reason why anybody would choose to use this paid for system when the US signal was free being neatly solved by the EU using it's regulatory power to force various industries to have to use Gallileo even if the US system was cheaper and better.

Unfortuantly things are beginning to unravel. Firstly in desperate need of cash the EU has sold a 20% stake in Gallileo to China. That is a country that imprisons members of a non-violent religous minority or practicing their brand of sillyness, executes them, and then sells the organs. I guess the EU excuses this by thinking "at least they aren't americans".

This meant that chinese manufacturers will be mass producing the receivers cheaply and without paying any dues to the EU. Now a proffessor at Cornell in the USA being annoyed at the EU's refusal to allow access to the codes used for encrypting Gallileo, which the EU had promised to make available, cracked them. His break found it's way onto the internet and then into the receivers manufactured by a Canadian company since:
the Europeans cannot copyright basic data about the physical world, even if the data are coming from a satellite that they built.
So it appears that everywhere other than in EU countries manufacturers will be able to create receivers for the Gallileo system without paying the EU anything. The citizens of the EU who this puts at a competitive disadvantage being the people that are paying most of the money that will put Gallileo in the sky in the first place, and being the people that will be forced by various EU regulations to buy the things. So the EU is effectively forcing it's citizens to subsidise the hi tech manufaturing of the whole world, apart from inside the EU itself!

Once again it is better to be outside the EU than in it. Let's leave.

linked by Slate

My post on the July 7th anniversary has been linked to by Slate, which is very flattering. Shame they made a few mistakes. The quotes are accurate but they call me:
Christ at Strange Things
It is Chris at Strange Stuff, my name is below every post and the blog name is that bit in big writing at the top.

July 07, 2006

the EU is rubbish

Ah the EU, our economy couldn't possibly survive without it is the most common explanation of why we carry on surporting this thing despite it condemning Africans to poverty and preventable death. But with the reams of regulations that it spews forth and its trade crippling tarrifs it is better to ask, how can our economy possibly survive with it? The lastest is a tarrif on plastic bags among other things:
the British Retail Consortium says the bag tariff will raise leading UK supermarkets' costs by £61 million a year. This, of course, will be passed on to consumers, to add to the £25 that the children's shoe tariffs will add to the cost of shodding the average sprog.
Wealth is not money but rather wealth is having things that you want, a view presented better than I can by Paul Graham, whatever they may be (physical things, spiritual enlightenment, emotional forefilment etc.). Money being simply a convience to make exchange easier. Access to cheap imports therefore makes everybody wealthier as they can acquire more of the things that they want. So what the EU is doing is making everybody less wealthy in order to further the interests of a select group of the politically connected. But then socialism is deeply embedded into it so what can you expect.


This piece of research from Stumbling and Mumbling shows that not only do taking the exports of poor countries make us wealthier, they are the best method for poverty reduction. It should be remembered that the EU is not a free trade area, it is a customs union. It was designed to protect internal trade from the rest of the world. However it may hurt the everybody the EU will never give up it's protectionist instincts. So we at least should leave, to speed up it's collapse.

Polly kicking

I can't actually be bothered to take apart Polly's lastest offering, luckily it has already been done several times. The devil has all you Polly kicking needs covered.

7/7 anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the bombings in London that killed 52 and injured hundreds. There is something noticeable in the BBC's coverage of this. There is not a single mention that the bombers where Muslims and the bombings in the name of Islam. Perhaps because of the death threats against anybody perceived to critise Islam.

The 7/7 bombers where not the first, there have been other Islamic terrorists brought up in the UK, and we know 7/7 won't be the last attack by Islamic terrorists in the UK. Because it wasn't the last attack. Especially since "British Muslims tend to be more anti-Western than their counterparts in France or Germany" and have sealed themselves off in there own little Islamic colonies which have become more and more insular as time passed rather than integrating like all other immigrant groups. 40% do not want to have to live by the laws of the country that they live in, but would rather their colonies be governed by sharia law and we all know what that means.

Islamic terrorism is not solely because of Western actions in Iraq. There have been Islamic terrorist attacks before Iraq in Bali and the suicide car bombing of French engineers in Pakistan or British born Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh slitting Daniel Pearl's throat. Nor is it a simple response to the attack on Afganistan, the Philippines had nothing to do with Afganistan yet it has been attacked repeatedly such as the ferry bombing in 2004. There where many Islamic terrorist attacks before the Afgan war such as 9/11, the USS Cole attack in Yemen, the Embassy bombings in Africa, or the first attack on the World Trade Centre all the way back in 1993. The Iraq war has not helped things, but where it the cause of Islamic terrorism then you would expect that the country that was at the forefront of campaigning against it would be less likely to be a target, this was not the case. The Iraq war hadn't even being suggested when British born convert to Islam and Islamism Richard Reid tried to blow up an aircraft. The Islamists have their own agenda, they are not simply reacting to the actions of the west, and it is not one of peace or mutual toleration.

July 06, 2006

EU tax on Britain

As we know despite all of it's fancy retoric the EU is failing to tackle climate change (unlike the US). The system that it planned to set up seemed at the time a very good idea, create a market so that fossil fuels would be used by the people that needed it the most distributing this scarce resource (the amount of CO2 emmisions that the climate can stand) in the most efficient way possible. Unfortuantly it was up to the EU to manage it.
Once through the Brussels looking-glass, a visionary idea for creating a market in carbon has so far turned out to be nothing but a tax on Britain with no effect on greenhouse gases. Last year, the first year of the scheme, 21 out of the 25 member states made a mockery of it by handing out permits for more CO2 than was emitted. The upstanding UK had handed out fewer permits relative to its emissions than anyone else.
What could have been a good system for dealing with climate change becomes just yet another way of fleecing money out of Britain by the rest of the EU. "UK companies had effectively handed about £470 million to rivals abroad." Yet more for the EU to drag down our growth rates yet further.

July 05, 2006

Ken Lay, Enron founder, dead at 64

Ken Lay, Enron founder, is dead he died from a massive heart attack, just before sentencing. Conspiracy theories roll!

Bin Laden for Bush

Now here is a consiracy theory for you, Bin Laden surported Bush in 2004. Not some conspiracy that Bush was secretly playing Bin Laden behind everybodies back in an awesome display of cunning and razor sharp intelegence. That would be crazy, this is a guy that cannot count up to his own IQ number. No Bin Laden is playing Bush:
CIA analysts also felt that bin-Laden might have recognized how Bush’s policies – including the Guantanamo prison camp, the Abu Ghraib scandal and the endless bloodshed in Iraq – were serving al-Qaeda’s strategic goals for recruiting a new generation of jihadists.

“Certainly,” the CIA’s Miscik said, “he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years,” according to Suskind’s account of the meeting.
And it worked, after bin-Laden's message Bush suddenly managed to claw a lead in the polls. This does have a kind of logic to it, after all as a global revolutionary leader why wouldn't you want your most powerful opponent to be run by a guy that would lose a general knowledge contest with an Aubergine.

July 04, 2006

Tales from the Polly-verse

The Devil's Kitchen is once again giving Polly Toynbee a kicking for her latest offering, which is a piece about the evils of inheritance. Which is rather rich coming from somebody that is also rather rich, and descended from an aristocratic line, like other lefties, and according to one of DK commenters:
Amy Jenkins (ie Polly's stepdaughter) inherited a large house in Chelsea from her grandmother
I particularly like that Polly demanding that all gifts be taxed at 40%. So meanwhile in Polly-verse:

Little Tarquin early on Christmas morning, his eyes bright with expectation, there is a present under the tree, and it is addressed to him! He has never had a present before! The proud parents look on as he unwraps the gift that they managed to buy with money scrapped together by selling some of their state approved ration on the black market. An attempt to make up for the fact that they are never allowed to see him, spending 12 hours every day at Sure Start, along with the rest of the children, having knowledge drummed out of him to make sure that they start life equal.

A bang on the door. Chloe and her husbands faces fall. Not the tax man, not today. Could they not have but one day to be a family? Like they remember from before She Who Must be Obeyed came to power?

The door collapses. Masked men storm in. A gun fires. And Chloe's husband lies dead, blood and brains seeping out across the floor.

"Ben! Ben! Oh god! You bastards, what have you done!" Screams Chloe

"He was running away, look at the unseasonal clothes he is wearing", the lead gunman points at Benjamin's cheap threadbare pyjamas, "He could have been a suicide bomber." Turning to face chloe he continues, tapping her in the chest with one gloved hand,

"You, however, appear to be something much worse. I suspect that you where attempting to give a gift without state authorisation, and may even have engaged in trade to acquire it. Filthy cunt." He turns to his men.

"Collect the evidence." One of the masked gunmen snatches the teddy that was to have been for Tarquin. He does not seem to notice. His eyes are fixed, focused at a point somewhere below the floor where is father now lies.

He is still staring at it as his mother is dragged from the flat, her head in a black bag. He will never see her again. Unlike lesser crimes, like murder, sentences for withholding from the state must be carried out in full and the ever increasing demands on the state for money mean that the sentences have to be long indeed to act as a deterrent and make sure that the state can take what belongs to it.

Welfare stopped for terrorism suspect families

Faisal Bodi's Blood is Boiling at Al Guardian, and for once he would have a point had he not deliberately missed it. Thanks to resolutions 1267 (1999), 1333 (2000), 1390 (2002) and 1455 (2003) of the UN Security Council suspected of being associated with the Taliban and al-qaeda have had all but subsistence benefits removed for them and their families. This does mean that they are being punished for mere suspicion of aiding the Islamofascists and Islamic terrorists, and not just on them but on their families as well. While in Labour controlled Britain not an unusual thing, is a bad thing as nobody should be punished unless found guilty of some crime. Unfortunately Mr Bodi concentrates on the fact that all of the people suspected of being associated with Islamofascists and Islamic terrorists happen to be Muslim, as if this was some kind of strange coincidence that can only be explained by an anti-Islamic conspiracy. What exactly did he expect? Perhaps was under the impression that Bin Laden and Mullah Omar where actually a Jewish.

July 03, 2006

USA better than EU on Climate Change

America is often critised by the EU and European countries over enviromental issues for not signing to the Kyoto Protocol. However unlike the empty bluster that was Kyoto the USA is actually doing something about climate change, rather than mouthing pleasantries.
Most European countries are falling behind their carbon pledges, but the US is doing better. Its economy grew by 3.5 percent last year, but its fuel emissions went up 0.1 percent, with no growth in road pollution and a drop in aircraft emissions.
But then the need to do anything doesn't seem to be understood much in EU. The US is helped by the fact that it is more exposed to the market due to it's lower taxes, rises in oil prices have a greater marginal effect. And that is where incentives really come into play, at the margins, so the greater marginal effect of the world wide increases in oil prices are having a much greater incentive to cut back in the US than in the EU.

Labour's war on Civil Liberties

The BBC has also picked up the story that Labour is continuing with the steady destruction of Civil Liberties that has been the hallmark of it's reign. Despite nobody being held anywhere near the current 28 day maximum, four times the maximum time that anybody could be detained without charge when Labour came into office, they still want more. So once again 90 days detention without charge is on the cards. What is especially scarly now is that Labour have also made all offences arrestable, so you can now be held for 28 days without knowing if you are going to get charged or not for such high crimes as being suspected of parking on a double yellow line.

July 02, 2006

religion and morality

A two part post on religion and morality, and how you do not need one for the other.

Civil war in Iraq?

This might be a sign of a tactical blunder by al Qaeda, Bin Laden is calling for Sunni Muslims to attack Shiite Muslims in Iraq. That al Qaeda would eventually start to attach Shiites is not surprising, it considers them heretics and only their brand of Sunni Islam to be the true form that must eventually be practiced world wide. But the timing is a little odd as they have not driven out the Americans and British yet (despite the best efforts of the British politicians to make it easy for them) and by starting attacking Shiites, who make up the majority of the population, al Qaeda could force the Shiites into supporting the coalition as the lesser of two evils. This would be a rather stupid thing to do from a strategic point of view, but Bin Laden is fighting a religious war and as we all know religion is stupid.

90 Day Detentions

Way back in the mists of time there was Habeas Corpus that meant that anybody accused of a crime had to be charged and see a court as soon as possible. They could not be held without charge for more than a day. Eventually this got extended to 3 days, then under the threat of IRA terrorism and frequent bombings to 7 days. Then New Labour came on to the scene and doubled it to 14 days. Then doubled it again to 28 days having wanted to go all the way up to 90 days but where defeated on that. 90 Day Detentions are about to come back on the agenda as one of the policies to set the agenda for Gordon Brown's time as Prime Minister. Bastard. So what ever parts of the New Labour mission that lefties think he is going to drop it isn't going to be the ongoing War on Civil Liberties.

July 01, 2006

UK top of inward investment table

While joining the Euro was a possibility one of the arguments for it was that if we did not join then we would lose all inward investment. Like many of the pro-Euro doom claims it didn't happen. What actually happened was that we managed to avoid a recession, that is still blighting Eurozone countries like Germany and Italy, and our economy grew faster than it would have in the Eurozone. As a result nward investment still flowed and this year the UK is top of the inward investment table (H/T Not Proud of Britain), even beating China and the USA.

How long this will continue remains to be seen as the cost of production here steadily climbs thanks to the EU's never ending desire to regulate all industry out of existence. The lastest being the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive that was on the brink of destroying the UK organ making industry before a special exception was made for it. However it is still going to have a massive negative effect of UK manufacturing.
A European directive banning poisonous heavy metals from all kinds of electrical and electronic goods including fridges, computers and vacuum cleaners comes into force today. Experts say that the directive, which represents the largest single change ever to hit the consumer electronics industry, is causing chaos among retailers and is likely to put up prices to consumers by at least five per cent.
Can we leave now?

Bromley and Blaenau Gwent

There is an interesting post at EU Referendum on the Bromley and Blaenau Gwent by-elections, and not just because Dr North actually manages to say something nice about UKIP. It is about the political apathy that the political classes complain about, since it might be better classed as political party apathy. The career politicians that make up the political class having never never actually lived in the real world are completely unable to relate to it. So the parties have stopped examining what would be good for the country in favour of examining their own rectal cavities, with the mainstream media unthinkingly following to report what they might find in there. So it is up to the small parties that are to small to be able to shield their elite members for the real world that are increasingly getting listened to as they increasingly are the ones with something to say. Dr North has a remedy for this, should anyone in the established parties pop out for long enough to read it.
My remedy was equally straightforward. Start taking an interest in the things that ordinary people are interested in, and they will take an interest in you.

Until then, I suspect we will see the continued onwards march of the minnows.

free markets end poverty

This is weird, a Guardian editorial that I completely agree with. Well almost.

First the disagreement, Bill Gates had set up the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and given it enough money to make it the richest charitable organisation in the world way before Live8. That is why he appeared on stage at Live8. Warren Buffett too as a canny investor is unlikely to part with that much money because of being shamed into it by a one off event. More likely he is following the American tradition of working hard and becoming fabulously wealthy, then giving most of it away.

However that is a fairly minor point, the general thrust of the article is perfect.
Globalisation means freer trade which means more trade which, in all historical experience, has been the only sustainable long-term way in which poverty has ever been reduced.
because trade can create wealth for everybody while aid merely redistributes it without doing anything about why the people have none in the first place. Strangely for a writer in the Guardian he also comes out in favour of Industrialisation, that is the process that transformed the west and made it so much wealthier than the rest of the world.
Industrialisation, and with it increased investment by multinational companies is another. That is the method by which China has cut its poverty numbers at the fastest rate in history. It is also ultimately the only way in which India or indeed much of Africa is really going to cut poverty substantially. You'd better swallow hard if you think multinationals are agents of the devil, or that industrialisation in the third world is bound to destroy the planet. You can believe those things, but if so you are simultaneously deciding that poverty will always be with us.
In order to achieve these objectives we in the west must become less protectionist and allow the third world to trade with us freely. At the very least we must get rid of the indefensible CAP (or no longer partake in it if that is not an option), and the US must get rid of their agricultural subsidies. George Bush has actually already offered to drop the US agricultural subsidies, if the EU did the same. Which of course it would not. This could have been a cunning ruse on the part of Bush, knowing that the EU was unlikely to take up his offer. But that assumes a level of intelligence that is completely lacking in everything else he does, such as not remembering to chew before swallowing.